Saturday, December 17, 2011

Work-Life Balance

DSC07752Wrapping things up in London prior to heading to the US – the Board has set a price for our next offering (£25/share, up from £15/share last spring, pegging our valuation at just shy of £2 million), our experimental plan is in place with the Universities, my syllabus for the new term is almost ready, my outline for the Poland Business Education grant is complete.  Most importantly, my bags are stuffed with goodies and gifts from the far flung corners of my travels.  I’ll scatter them along the way as I fly back, first to see my parents in Boulder, than on to family in Seattle.  A bit of St. Nick, almost (I don’t think a flying sled fits Dutch tradition).

It’s been a busy few weeks, and looks worse going forward.  A course to teach, clinical trials coming up in the US in February and March, fundraising across the UK in January and February, development and experiments to finish by first of March.  And Dutch classes to catch up with.

So, I read with interest an article in Business Traveller about re-establishing work-life balance.  They catalog not listening, becoming aggressive, losing your humor, and decoupling from social activity as key warning signs.  DSC07753I would add sleep disruption, irregular eating, lack of exercise, and nagging guilt over missing personal and business commitments as a few more.  It doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of stress: I find that it’s just a pervasive feeling that I can’t catch up, flailing through tasks but always extending the list faster than I can cross them off.

So, the five solutions:

Designate time to your personal life.  This varies from just scheduling guilt-free evenings off to planning events you can’t back out of.  Or take Matt Cutts’ “Try something new for 30 days” challenge.  The temptation for me would be to assign it to Dutch practice, but in the spirit of “New”, I’d probably learn a new cooking technique each day.

Take care of your body:  Get regular sleep, regular meals, regular exercise.  I am pretty good on the first, a bit lax on the second, progressively worse on the third.  That’s especially worrisome because my genes have handed me a “Use them or lose them” deal with my muscles, and regular exercise is important to strength, flexibility, and endurance.  For many years, I took a mid-day break to go exercise, and need to get back into the habit.

Consider workshifting: “Work remotely to achieve a more productive day”.  In a virtual business, flung across three countries, that’s pretty much my life anyway.  Where I do fall down, though, is in travelling too much, losing a few days every month to air and train travel between three base locations.  Even cutting that by one would make a huge difference.

Turn off technology:  When we were young, our family took vacations in the Northwoods, by canoe, so that my father could escape the phone and the office.  DSC07754Today, communications are even more pervasive, breaking down barriers to segmenting any part of life away from the others.  Think about how you take doctor’s calls in the grocery, work calls on vacation, and (apparently if you’re female, none of my male-friends do it) taking friend’s calls in the bathroom (tub or toilet).  I’d seriously like to take one week-long hike or sail in the new year, with the mobile and computer unavailable except for family emergencies.

Find time to do nothing:  When I’m in the Netherlands, I take one night a week for recreation at the local bars, jazz music, quiz night, poetry. I’m searching out the same sort of venues in Britain (harder because there’s no WeekIn/WeekUit in Cambridge!).  It’s relaxation; so it taking a pleasure book to a pub or café or hottub for a read, or the bike into the countryside.  It’s a bit of “sit still and breath” turn-your-mind-to-idle relaxation time that I probably need to do daily, but don’t.

I’d add taking time to celebrate your successes (give yourself small rewards), keeping in touch with friends (I periodically pick out an old friend that I haven’t heard from in a while and write them a note), finding something to laugh about (and share with someone else each day), and taking a reflective moment each day to keep it all in perspective.

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